‘Riverdale’ returns: 3 things to look out for this season

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The CW’s “Riverdale” returned Wednesday night, leaving fans with plenty of new plots to explore in the weeks to come. The Southside Serpents are now at Riverdale High — meaning Jughead (Cole Sprouse) and his buds are in the same classrooms as his old pals and kids who see the Serpents as contaminants in the pearly perfection that is the north side of Riverdale. But the Serpents aren’t the only interlopers of season two — new family members and old frenemies have also thrown the town for a loop.

The season began with a central focus on uncovering the identity of the town’s latest killer, the Black Hood, but it soon dove into an array of wishy-washy romantic subplots and confused paths of potential suspects. “Riverdale” dug itself into a bit of a narrative hole with its Black Hood plot — and not just when it had Betty (Lili Reinhart) almost bury Archie (KJ Apa) alive.

With the first part of season two behind us and the supposed Black Hood eliminated — not that anyone believes the high school janitor was the serial killer out to “cleanse Riverdale of its sinners” — we can speculate on what lies ahead for our beloved town.

  1. What’s going on with Lodge Industries?

Hiram and Hermione Lodge (Mark Consuelos and Marisol Nichols) recently let their daughter Veronica (Camila Mendes) in on the secrets of their family business, and “Riverdale” strategically left viewers out of the loop. As of now, we know that Hiram was once in jail for fraud and embezzlement, and he continued to conduct business negotiations from behind bars. He purchased the land that once housed Riverdale’s drive-in theater, where Jughead once lived — but that was just the start of the Lodges’ plan to gentrify the south side of Riverdale.

In season 2, Hiram also secretly purchased Pop’s without Veronica’s knowledge. Now, he’s purchased the land beneath Southside High — leading to the school’s closure and the transfer of several Serpents, including Jughead and his closest Serpent pals, to Riverdale High. It’s clear that Hiram has Riverdale’s mayor wrapped around his finger, and that means trouble for the town, especially Archie, who’s been asked to assist in the FBI’s investigation of Lodge Industries.

Hiram Lodge might just be the least trusted man in Riverdale, which says a lot, given that other Riverdale patriarchs have run gangs and drug rings. The trailer for next week’s episode foreshadows a competitive relationship between Hiram and Archie, which couldn’t be a more obvious or predictable battle between “good” and “evil.” We’ll see who wins out.

  1. Is “Riverdale” finished with Nick St. Claire?

Nick St. Claire (Graham Phillips) was introduced earlier this season and he was smarmy from the beginning. In one episode, he transitioned from being a creep looking to steal Veronica’s attention away from Archie to being a rapist who assaulted both Veronica and Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch). If he’d stuck around in Riverdale, we could have forgotten about Hiram — Nick would easily be the most hated man around. Nick is nothing less than human garbage and the embodiment of white male privilege.

It seemed as though Nick’s presence served two purposes: First, to highlight the friendships and solidarity of the show’s women, and second, to give the show a chance to denounce sexual violence. The show has done the latter well by chastising characters who share survivors’ stories out of turn and demonstrating a plethora of responses to accusations, while still maintaining that the proper response is to believe survivors and support their course of action moving forward.

It was easy to think that we were done with Nick St. Clair, especially after his skiing accident — clearly planned by Hiram as revenge for Nick’s attack on Veronica — but the return of “Riverdale” assured us that Nick isn’t going anywhere. This could be because the creator of “Riverdale,” Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, is a fan of Phillips’ performance as Nick, or it could be because the writers think that Nick’s impact on the characters should be more fully fleshed out.

For now, Nick, whose violent actions allowed the show to engage in important discourses around sexual violence, serves as a challenge to Archie’s moral high ground. His richy-rich background also highlights the class differences in Riverdale, which would be yet another fruitful examination for a show in which the “core four” have vastly different economic backgrounds.

  1. Who is Chic Cooper and what will he bring to Betty’s family?

 

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We knew before “The Blackboard Jungle” that Betty’s mom, Alice (Mädchen Amick), had a son in her late teen years. Alice’s first pregnancy was kept a secret — even while Betty’s parents sent their older daughter Polly (Tiera Skovbye) to live at a convent because of a pregnancy during the first season. It was pretty clear throughout the first season that Alice was keeping secrets (she’s certainly not the most trustworthy Riverdale resident), but at the end of the first season, Alice revealed to Betty that, like Polly, Alice also spent time at the convent before secretly delivering her son.

Once the second season got started, neither the cast nor the writers of “Riverdale” were nearly as secretive about the introduction of Hart Denton as Charles, or “Chic,” the long-lost Cooper brother. When Betty learns that Polly has had the twins without informing her family, Betty goes in search of Alice’s son. In this week’s return, “Riverdale” finally delivered the introduction that the cast and crew have been teasing on social media for weeks.

Turns out Chic was never adopted after being entered into the foster-care system, which he left at the age of 18, and he’s been living pretty close to Riverdale. When Betty and Alice go to meet him, he’s living in a comparatively dodgy apartment, where Betty and Alice stick out like sore thumbs covered in pearls and pink cashmere. It’s pretty unsurprising that Chic knew exactly where the Coopers live but really wants nothing to do with them. It’s only when Betty returns to Chic’s in the hope of convincing him to get to know their family that he agrees to come home with her out of desperation — she walks in on a violent confrontation between Chic and another man and brings him back to the Cooper house for help.

Near the episode’s end, we see Alice and Hal reluctantly allowing Chic to stay in Polly’s room for the night — only later, he goes into Betty’s room and creepily stands over her as she sleeps. The eeriness of his presence in the moment is only heightened by the classic “Riverdale” lighting: Darkness fills the room, save for a sliver of blue light hovering over half of Chic’s face.

It’s hard to know exactly how to feel about Chic based on what we see in this episode. First, he went from being a rather obvious secret to being a centrally exciting figure whose introduction drove fans to return for the second half of season 2. Now that Denton’s had a bit of screen time, there still isn’t much known about him. Is he a threat to the Cooper family, or will he bring them all together? (Or was he merely introduced to distract viewers from Polly and Jason’s twins?)

In an interview with TV Guide, Denton teased the idea that Chic’s character might be a point of contrast to Betty’s upbringing, “It’s a character that’s coming to Riverdale that’s got a lot of layers.” Denton says that Chic isn’t “good or bad,” but that his life experiences — which are very different from Betty and Polly’s — definitely inform the moral dilemmas we saw this week: “It’s somebody that has had such a difficult upbringing who has had to learn how to make his way in the world on his own,” Denton said.

Based on the trailer for next week’s episode, we can only hope that Chic’s presence will enhance Betty’s relationship with her own moral dilemmas, such as her recent distance from Jughead and his life with the Southside Serpents. Most importantly, we can also predict that his arrival will allow Betty space to talk about her mental health and the “darkness” within her that “Riverdale” loves to play up.

Sophie-Marie Prime covers television. Contact her at [email protected].